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Fringe Theatre Highlights of 2014

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I’ve seen over a 100 theatre productions this year, so I thought I’d share some of the ones that caught my imagination over the course of the year. A number of them will no doubt reappear over the course of 2015, so keep an eye out on the site for them!

Fringe Stage Theatres – This is our top ten of the smaller productions in the little spaces around Dublin, the Cube (Porject), the New Theatre, Bewleys Cafe Theatre, the Teacher’s Club and the sadly short lived space in Chancery Lane.

How to Keep an Alien – Cube – One of the best productions I saw all year, with a tale of how complicated modern love can be! It is funny and sweet in equal measure.

“You really feel like you are being given a glimpse of a very private world throughout and the intimacy of the Cube only adds to this. On the night I attended there was a well deserved and genuine standing ovation and the audience was completely engaged and in stitches laughing throughout the show. Kelly is an excellent storyteller and you leave feeling uplifted and with your faith in love restored. At many times throughout the show she talks about making a gesture of permanence to Kate and this is probably the grandest gesture of permanence she could have given her. Truly affecting, warm and witty this is one of the best new works I have seen in a long time.”

Dublin Oldschool – Project Arts Centre/ Bewleys – Landing somewhere between a Hip Hop gig and a play, this had two of the best performances of the year at the heart of it. It’s a tale of two brothers, one living on the streets and one on a drugs binge.

“The script has some great lines, interesting devices and a wonderful array of characters. It draws on works such as Howie the Rookie, but still very much has its own feel. Emmet Kirwan stays in character as Jason, a young man just about holding it together on a long running narcotics binge. Ian Lloyd Anderson creates the rest of the world; junkies, scobies, dealers, ex-girlfriends, gardaí, superstar DJs and even ‘Dave the Rave’. This is the type of production that in the wrong hands could be truly awful and that makes you appreciate the performances all the more.”

Small Plastic Wars – New Theatre – “You find yourself lost in his world, and it feels very believable, like this is a true life account of an honest man in Dublin. The story may sound quite bleak, but the piece has a lot of humour to it, and contains some very funny lines. It is a warm and rich play, with an impressive degree of depth and development to the character over its duration.”

Leper + Chip – Theatre Upstairs – It’s always nice to see something in a tiny space that really captures your imagination, and this one was a cut above most I saw. It’s a twisted love story than moves along at a great clip. It is coming to the Cube in the Project shortly.

“The frequent use of bad language and the general madness of the piece will make it suited to a younger more irreverent audience, but if you’re feeling up to an hour of insanity, it’s well worth the risk. As an impressive new piece of writing that contains strong performances from the two young actors, this is one to watch.”

The Art of Wedlock – Chancery Lane – This space was in the midst of a great run before it abruptly stopped! Hopefully it will return at some point. The Art of Wedlock was a number of short stories performed in the tiny space, and it looked great.

“There is much variation between the different pieces and the series of short plays keeps you on your toes and never lets you get bored. There is a real sense of style about this production and a number of impressive performances from the strong ensemble cast. This is Speckintime’s first theatrical performance and it is a very enjoyable night of quirky/ lost work by established and lesser known names.”

Terminus – Chancery Lane – Another one from Chancery Lane. Many will be familiar with Mark O’Rowe’s tale of demonic possession in Dublin, and this was an impressive production.

“Then the magic happens. Then we hear Mark O’Rowe’s epic words spoken live and aloud by three terrific performers. The story is an interwoven triologue. Each actor is giving testimony, recalling events at a particular time, seemingly unlinked to each other at first but, as the tale draws on, parts begin to slot together, the jigsaw takes shape and we as an audience gasp and remark (silently) at the prowess and brilliance of Mark O’Rowe to knit a story together.”

Collected Stories – Teachers Club – Review – An interesting play that shows how the dynamics of friendships can change over time, and roles can be reversed.

“This is the type of play that actors delight in. It is a subtle and complex piece by Pulitzer Prize winning writer Donald Margulies. It is the type of work that needs an impressive level of acting to make it come to life, and luckily this is available here. Noreen Fynes shows great skill in giving depth to Steiner, a complicated older woman. Ruth has a quick wit and a barbed tongue, it’s the sort of part Maggie Smith would take great pleasure in. Niamh Kavanagh plays the fresh faced and innocent Lisa, and transforms from wide eyed ignorance to a confident young woman over the course of the play.”

Mavericks – Theatre Upstairs – A play about two out of work actors, and Ben and Chewie. It has a lot of laughs and some impressive performances. This will shortly return to Bewleys Cafe Theatre.

“Mavericks is an hour of joy which has been created out of the far from joyous facts that many young emerging talented actors are in the same situation as Ben and Chewie- out of work. Mavericks is a delight; a silk purse has been made out of a sow’s ear. A splendid piece of theatre.”

Bastard: A Family History – Cube Theatre – One of the best from the Dublin Tiger Fringe, this was an enjoyable story of being an outsider in your own home!

“No doubt in the coming years of centenaries there will be multitudinous discussions about national identity, traditions, respect for difference and much else revolving around these far from simple issues. Oddie Braddell has made a witty contribution to the discussion from personal experience and it is to be hoped that the many who will enter the debate in the coming seven or so years will imbue their contributions with a similar degree of insight and wit. He has provided food for thought symbolically revealed to his audience in the humble plate of toast.”

Boys and Girls – Project Arts Centre – “The text is largely written in verse, and the actors deliver the many humorous lines at an unrelenting pace. The changes between the various characters are made with split second timing and the actors diction of the complicated verse is daunting. To be this tight on stage demands a huge amount of work, and it is clear how much rehearsal went into creating this piece. The script is impressive in itself, but the work as a whole is more than the sum of its parts. At just about an hour long, it does not over stay its welcome and delivers its fast paced story of modern Dublin life with some style.”

 

Site Specific Works –

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These are some of the most exciting events, as you get to explore strange spaces you wouldn’t get to see otherwise.

Songs From A Car Park (Drury Street) – A dance performance that took place in a number of car parks around Dublin during the Fringe. You watch the performance from the inside of a number of cars, and watch the dancers move on the concrete ramps!

“It is one of the more unusual settings for dance show that I have ventured to and top marks are to be given for creativity in that respect. As a high concept production, it is difficult to create work of a similar level to the idea behind, but for the most part they achieve it. There are a few moments where your mind wanders, but at other times it is quite captivating, despite the windscreen separating the audience and dancers. There is something special about work in different and unusual settings and this is certainly a memorable production.”

 Vardo – Dublin Theatre Festival – Anu were always going to be front and centre in this section! This was the final part of the Monto cycle, and allowed the audience to roam around with the performers through the streets of Dublin one last time. A tale of prostitution and poverty and how difficult it is for some people to break free.

“There are various set pieces in the event and some of them are more successful than others. At its best, it was very impressive, while other elements felt a little too similar to what has gone before. The final video piece brings the various strands together and allows the viewer to remember what has gone before. It is certainly one of the most memorable theatre projects that I’ve seen in Ireland and with their recent trip to Manchester, they are starting to expand their horizons. It will be fascinating to see what they deliver next.”

Beautiful Dreamers – Limerick – Review – The best thing I saw at the Limerick City of Culture, this was a play that brought the audience to the 11th storey of an office block and allowed them to watch the performers on the street far below. The production seemed to be controlling the city itself!

“There are heavily scripted moments where it felt like traditional theatre, where actors stand before us and tell us of their lives. They are normal people who have opinions that don’t always fit with the liberal mindset. The level of ambition of this piece is one of the most striking things about it. It tries to capture the city of Limerick in its totality, and the size and scale of the production is very impressive. The Limerick City of Culture Festival has received many negative notices since the start of the year, but this is something which is very much to its credit. This is initiative and new and also uniquely Irish.”

Fizzles – Beckett in the City – 14 Henrietta Street – This was a number of short Beckett monologues that were acted out by a solo performer in the impressive confines of Henrietta street. A building that looked dazzling as the light slowly faded.

“Beckett’s original work Fizzles is a collection of eight short prose pieces, this production chooses three of them to bring to life. This is not typical Fringe material, and is a very slick and polished production. It is a charismatic piece that is closer to video/ performance art than a straight play. It delves into our collective psyche for haunting and stylized visions of old age and delivers some striking images. As ever with Beckett monologues, you have to clear your mind and concentrate on the text or else you’ll lose the flow. There is some work involved to enjoy this piece, but it is well worth the effort.”

The Last Post – A production based around the post office and what it means to the community. This production took place in the Mart in Rathmines, a wonderful old building which was once a fire station.

The Last Post demonstrates just how alive and innovative are our budding, under-resourced theatrical practitioners. With minimal resources they create fantasy and transport their audiences to other places… the very stuff of theatre. An example of how transformative theatre can be.”

Review of the year – by M. Quinn

 

 

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